THE Free Church of Scotland has voiced its opposition to a blanket opt-out system for organ donation.
The religious group claims specialist nurses and better education on organ donation in schools would be far more effective in increasing the number of donors.
Labour MSP Anne McTaggart published the results of her consultation on the issue earlier this week, but the majority of religious and medical organisations who responded, including the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, remain opposed.
The Free Church said an opt-out system would be “something akin to a tax imposed by the state” on people’s bodies after death and ethically unacceptable.
Rev Dr Donald MacDonald, a former Free Church Moderator and retired surgeon, said: “Organ donation should be about deliberate and informed giving, instead of medical teams assuming it’s ok to take parts from our bodies. Silence is not consent.
“Following the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital scandal, the public is suspicious about removal of organs post mortem and this type of law might only increase that suspicion and could be counterproductive.”
Dr MacDonald added: “Thus far studies have proved entirely inconclusive that introducing an opt-out system will lead to a long-term increase in organ donor rates.
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“For example, Sweden is a country with an opt-out system and its donation rates are lower than that of the UK.
“The subject of organ donation is becoming more prominent in Scottish life, and we wholeheartedly support the Scottish Government’s publicity campaigns on this subject over the past few years.
“This is more likely to result in better informed decision making and changed behaviour amongst the public rather than taking the bull in a china shop approach of a blanket opt-out system.
“It would certainly be foolish to make any substantive changes in the law until professionals study the effects of the Welsh legislation which is coming into effect later this year.”
The former surgeon said: “An important factor in the rise in donor rates is the appointment of specially trained nurses, who liaise with the relatives of patients who are potential donors.
“By removing misunderstandings and giving emotional support at a difficult time, relatives are helped to see the benefits of organ donation for those in need and more readily agree to the procedure.
“‘Presumed consent’ in an opt-out system is based on the unfounded assumption that every single person who has not opted out was aware of the opt-out provision and has consciously taken a decision not to opt out.
“This is no consent at all and a donation on this basis is not a donation but something akin to a tax imposed by the State. It means that the State claims to have ownership of our bodies after death unless we consciously reject this while alive.”
Ms McTaggart is now seeking signatures of support from her fellow MSPs as she attempts to progress her proposed legislation at the Scottish Parliament.
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